Comparison of animal discs used in disc research to human lumbar disc: Torsion mechanics and collagen content

Brent L. Showalter, Jesse C. Beckstein, John T. Martin, Elizabeth E. Beattie, Alejandro A.Espinoza Orías, Thomas P. Schaer, Edward J. Vresilovic, Dawn M. Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Study Design: Experimental measurement and normalization of in vitro disc torsion mechanics and collagen content for several animal species used in intervertebral disc research and comparing these with the human disc. Objective: To aid in the selection of appropriate animal models for disc research by measuring torsional mechanical properties and collagen content. Summary of Background Data: There is lack of data and variability in testing protocols for comparing animal and human disc torsion mechanics and collagen content. Methods: Intervertebral disc torsion mechanics were measured and normalized by disc height and polar moment of inertia for 11 disc types in 8 mammalian species: the calf, pig, baboon, goat, sheep, rabbit, rat, and mouse lumbar discs, and cow, rat, and mouse caudal discs. Collagen content was measured and normalized by dry weight for the same discs except the rat and the mouse. Collagen fiber stretch in torsion was calculated using an analytical model. Results: Measured torsion parameters varied by several orders of magnitude across the different species. After geometric normalization, only the sheep and pig discs were statistically different from human discs. Fiber stretch was found to be highly dependent on the assumed initial fiber angle. The collagen content of the discs was similar, especially in the outer annulus where only the calf and goat discs were statistically different from human. Disc collagen content did not correlate with torsion mechanics. Conclusion: Disc torsion mechanics are comparable with human lumbar discs in 9 of 11 disc types after normalization by geometry. The normalized torsion mechanics and collagen content of the multiple animal discs presented are useful for selecting and interpreting results for animal disc models. Structural organization of the fiber angle may explain the differences that were noted between species after geometric normalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E900-E907
Issue number15
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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